If the navel-gazing in the United States in the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona is an indication of anything, it is that there ought to be truth and balance in broadcast journalism. While Truth is too intangible at times to be contained in the certitudes that people cling to in the face of uncertainties like the ones facing the world today. The pursuit and discovery of truth will come from the willingness to move away from those certitudes and accept the challenge of sober scrutiny of what people say they believe.
Canada's Accurate News and Information Act is being revised by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is openly musing about easing the ban on broadcasting false or misleading news. While the amendment is meant to further ensure freedom of speech and only proposes the ban of "any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public," the amendment creates enough wiggle room for broadcasters to play in if they choose to indulge in the troublesome indifference to reason and sound argument that has had such free rein in the United States and which the mischief Kory Teneycke and his colleagues at Sun TV seem to be promising with their right-wing perspective of events.
The failure to engage in dialogue and to critically assess our beliefs and our foundations for those beliefs is a significant contribution to the tensions that exist in the United States. It is becoming evident that the US has bifurcated itself into separate communities of beliefs. Suburbanization, the internet and other tools that allow people to pick and choose the environments they live, work and interact in and the mindsets of the people one associates with fosters an environment where competing falsehoods are given life and are sustained by reflexive sycophancy surrounding untested certitudes about immigrants, creationism and sexual orientation to name just a few subjects people polarize themselves around.
The freedom of speech is a right that ought not be questioned, but as with all freedoms there is a responsibility to strive for truth and to participate in a civil dialogue with people holding opposing viewpoints. Letting broadcasters - which are far different corporate entities than the ones who were originally restrained by the Fairness Doctrine and the Accurate News and Information Act - operate with more latitude to interpret what is true, accurate, misleading or even safe is a further devolution of governance over the civic dialogue to organizations who stand to benefit from it while they are showing less willingness and capability for exercising the sense of responsibility to go with it.
Canadians need only look south to ponder the potential consequences. The end of truth ought to be the establishment of civic spaces where diversity of opinion and lifestyle can coexist in one place rather and the borders that people establish to divide one another melt under a harsh critical light.